This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Song of Songs 2:8-14
8 BELOVED: I hear my love. See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills.
9 My love is like a gazelle, like a young stag. See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the opening.
10 My love lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.
11 For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone.
12 ‘Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.
14 ‘My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.’
The passionate dialogue of lovers in the Song of Songs may have been interpreted as taking place between Israel and God or Israel and the Messiah, and has been subsequently interpreted as between the church / believer and Christ. It employs human sexuality as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people. This allows for passion and tenderness (both ways) in the relationship of humanity and God and has inspired a wide range of poetry and song. Invitation and response, love-play, ecstasy and fruitfulness are some of the motifs which it has introduced to worship and meditation. For example, George Herbert’s “Love bade me welcome.”
LOVE BADE ME WELCOME
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
Gospel, Luke 1:39-45
39 Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah. 40 She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 Now it happened that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? 44 Look, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45 Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
Luke provides another version of the love between believer and Christ in this story where the unborn John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb for joy at meeting the unborn Messiah, who is the “fruit” of Mary’s womb. An ancient and beautiful way of referring to pregnancy is employed by Luke to provide the reader with an image of humanity fruitful with the Son of God.
Luke’s narrative of the conception and birth of Jesus is a subtle masterpiece using the language of the Septuagint (Jewish Bible in Greek) to provide a comprehensive image of the expectation and actuality of the coming of the Messiah.
No one should think that the linguistic devices used in the Song of Songs or Luke’s narratives are disposable add-ons to the communication of faith: they are of its essence.